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Ancient Sorceries and Other Weird Stories (Penguin Classics) Paperback – August 27, 2002
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"Of the quality of Mr Blackwood's genius there can be no dispute; for no one has ever approached the skill, seriousness, and minute fidelity whith which he records the overtones of strangeness in ordinary things and experiences."
“To many, including H.P. Lovecraft, ‘The Willows’ is the finest story in the canon of supernatural fiction. (…) Blackwood himself is, arguably, the central figure in the British supernatural literature of the twentieth century.”
—Michael Dirda, New York Review of Books
About the Author
S. T. Joshi is a freelance writer and editor. He has edited Penguin Classics editions of H. P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories (1999), and The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories (2001), as well as Algernon Blackwood’s Ancient Sorceries and Other Strange Stories (2002). Among his critical and biographical studies are The Weird Tale (1990), Lord Dunsany: Master of the Anglo-Irish Imagination (1995), H. P. Lovecraft: A Life (1996), and The Modern Weird Tale (2001). He has also edited works by Ambrose Bierce, Arthur Machen, and H. L. Mencken, and is compiling a three-volume Encyclopedia of Supernatural Literature. He lives with his wife in Seattle, Washington.
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PS- I have several of the Penguin Classics that involve the eerie and fantastic fiction of authors from the past, such as Clarke Ashton Smith and HP Lovecraft. They are all enjoyable. Fun introductions to the authors if you haven't read them before. Some of these authors are the inspiration for the many weird and scary elements and ideologies involved in our various formats of media today.
I was recently directed to an outstanding author, famous for haunting, scary, engrossing stories, whose work I hadn't read before. Algernon Blackwood, is his name, and he was called to my attention by the editor of a White Nationalist web page, who posted "Willows" on his web site as example of excellent White art.
After reading the story, I couldn't get it out of my mind, so I searched the web for information, and ultimately bought this book from Amazon. "Willows," is among the stories collected here, and it is better than most; but, as a whole, the entire book is great entertainment.
Blackwood, has been compared to Edgar Allen Poe, in his ability to create psychological tension, and palpable unease that creeps up on the reader, and remains awhile. There is great subtlety in the author's presentation of Nature and its relationship to Mankind.
There are nine Blackwood stories in this 374 page book, including about twenty five pages of Explanatory Notes, which shed light on the author and the stories. A number of other Blackwood stories are collected in other books, also available at amazon.
A good choice for a rainy night of reading, alone, in an isolated location.
This is not to underrate the quality of Blackwood's prose - several of the stories contained in this collection are fantastic, though editor S.T. Joshi's choices for what to include do give you the very strong impression that he just wanted to demonstrate how Blackwood's natural terrors looked in every possible environment (it's the only reason I can think for "Sand" showing up here, as it's a complete clunker, and a low-point on which to close out the volume). "The Willows," "The Wendigo," and "The Man Whom the Trees Loved" are all excellent stories, and "The Insanity of Jones" has one of the best opening paragraphs since "The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents," though the story as a whole doesn't live up to that initial promise.
Perhaps as the whole climate change thing gets out of hand and we're increasingly faced with the reality of an all-powerful, abstract force that doesn't even see us as it sweeps us aside, Blackwood's strand of natural horror will come back into vogue. Until such time as things get truly Roland Emmerich, I suggest reading this one by firelight in the dark outside, and remembering that we never truly conquered Nature - we just managed to dodge it for a while.
Most recent customer reviews
These are atmospheric tales. Manifestations are felt more than seen.Read more
I really enjoyed "The Willows".